Glengarry Wines‘ Operations Manager, Tonci Jakicevich, was lucky to participate in a tour of distilleries in Scotland and Ireland during February. Here Tonci recounts his experiences of Glenglassaugh, BenRiach, GlenDronach, The Speyside Cooperage, and Slane in a five part series.
Following a delicious lunch served with a ‘pint of heavy’ at the Station Hotel in Portsoy, our convoy of mini-vans crossed the River Spey to the BenRiach distillery in the ‘heart of Speyside’. Built in 1898, only 2 years before the 1900 ‘Pattinson Crash’, BenRiach was only open a short number of years before closing, remaining so for 65 years.
“Warehouse 13”, BenRiach’s ‘Area51’, has long been home to an amazing array of malts aging in unique and wonderful cask selections. During our visit, Callum the warehouse manager at BenRiach took us through the barrel house selecting two such casks for us to sample. Our first dram was stilled in 1976 before entering the 3rd fill Sherry Butt in which it still sits. Tasted at cask strength (unknown, but expected to be in the high 40’s) and at warehouse temperatures (a cool 3-4c.) the whisky needed warming in the hands for the nose to truly open up, but once it did WOW! Honeyed fruit, roasted nuts and spice were layered over hints of barley and oak. The palate was rich, round and mouth filling, with apricot jam and roasted almonds and walnuts. Our second cask sampling was just as special, distilled in 1988, it has had an extended maturation of 10 years in a Tokay wine cask. A deep amber in the glass, this dram was all honey and spice with a hint of orange peel and candied ginger. It hinted at bees wax and citrus towards the long, lingering finish.
Our day was completed with a trip to Elgin, where we were thrown onto the ice and given lessons in Curling. With the Winter Olympics in full swing, the whole group threw themselves at this challenge whole-heartedly.